Council target benefit cheats

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PEOPLE are being urged to help Chorley Council beat the fraudsters and save local taxpayers thousands of pounds per year.

The authority is taking a stand against those who try and cheat the system by fraudulently claiming housing and council tax benefit.

In 2010/11 almost £90,000 was overpaid in housing benefit and council tax benefit by Chorley Council due to benefit fraud.

In that period, the council dealt with 306 allegations of benefit fraud and took formal action against 84 claimants.

Coun Peter Goldsworthy, Leader of Chorley Council, said: “We take benefit fraud extremely seriously and we wanted to highlight to the vast majority of residents who claim benefits fairly just how much people are trying to cheat out of the system and how important it is for them to report benefit fraud to us.”

“The vast majority of those people who have been caught by the council have initially made an honest claim for help with their rent and council tax.

”However, when their financial circumstances have improved they have not told the council straight away, and continue to receive a higher rate of housing and council tax benefit than they ought.”

More and more claimants are being caught out by ‘data matching’. This technique has helped to identify undeclared work, occupational pensions and bank accounts.

About a quarter of the allegations received by the council last year came from anonymous ‘tip offs’ but only five per cent of anonymous allegations resulted in proving fraud to a prosecution standard.

“Unfortunately some allegations are malicious or have no foundation or contain too little information to warrant a full investigation,” said Coun Goldsworthy.

“But sometimes the information we receive from the public is the first clue we get that all is not what it seems with a particular benefit claim. So it is vital that the public continue to contact us if they suspect that someone is committing benefit fraud.

“At the same time, it’s important to stress that people who are entitled to claim benefit do get the help they need, so if you are unsure we would urge you to contact us straightaway.”

Anyone wishing to report someone for benefit fraud can do so in confidence by phoning Chorley Council during office hours on 01257 515151, or phone, free of charge the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 328 6340 Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6pm.

Further information can also be found on the Chorley Council website, www.chorley.gov.uk/benefits.